EDITORIAL: By the Samoa Observer editorial board
It would be an understatement to say that we are stunned to see that the Human Rights Protection Party leader Tuila’epa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi now alleges the New Zealand Prime Minister plotted his removal from office.
This is beginning to sound really weird coming from a former prime minister, especially one who has spent over two decades in the top seat of Samoa’s government, and is supposed to be cognisant with how democratic governments function or are supposed to function before and after a general election.
However, we’ve grown accustomed in recent weeks to how Tuila’epa has been reacting to his party’s defeat in April’s general election, and his caretaker administration’s removal from office by the Court of Appeal last month.
And his finger pointing has been spectacular to say the least: starting with the judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal to the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Sativa Perese; to the former Attorney-General Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu and her husband and lawyer George Latu; and the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi.
But the latest one, with Tuila’epa accusing the head of a foreign government of plotting his government’s downfall based on a feminist agenda to install Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as Samoa’s first female prime minister, takes the cake.
Appearing in a TV1 programme on Sunday night, the former prime minister said he always had suspicions about the involvement of New Zealand, and its leader Jacinda Ardern, in Samoa’s election.
“The government [of New Zealand] has been heavily involved,” he said during the televised programme.
“It got me thinking about a lot of the things that have happened recently.
“It looks like the New Zealand Prime Minister wanted Samoa to have a female prime minister.
“Which has blinded her [Jacinda Ardern] from seeing if it’s something that is in line with our constitution.”
Tuilaepa’s evidence? Ardern’s congratulatory message to Fiame immediately after the Court of Appeal ruling last month, which happened too fast for the 76-year-old veteran politician’s liking.
“The proof is, as soon as the decision was handed down, the Prime Minister of New Zealand immediately sent her congratulatory message.
“The way I see the whole scenario, it looks like a concert they have worked on for a long time.
“The fact that she quickly sent Fiame her well wishes makes me think that they had planned all of this.”
So did the New Zealand Prime Minister have to wait a day, a week or a month before sending Fiame her congratulatory message?
In fact, with Samoa in recent months engulfed in a constitutional crisis — a result of Tuilaepa’s illegal actions supported by various state actors — the timing of Ardern’s congratulatory message was perfect.
At that time esteemed members of the judiciary were under attack, and the former Prime Minister and his cronies were on the verge of usurping the powers of the courts, and thus creating a case for the international community to intervene.
Therefore, the recognition of Fiame and the Court of Appeal’s ruling that installed her Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) government was critical, in order to assure Samoan citizens and the world that the rule of law would prevail despite the months-long trepidations.
And Ardern’s congratulatory message did just that: it restored confidence in the judiciary and the rule of law in Samoa.
So did Tuilaepa conveniently forget that his party doomed themselves at April’s polls by bulldozing through draconian laws that restructured the judiciary last year despite public opposition; opted to endorse multiple candidates under the party banner; chose to overlook the significance of social media-focused campaigning; and downplayed the campaign strategy of the FAST party?
Hence there is much more to the congratulatory messages from the New Zealand Prime Minister and other world leaders and international organisations, following the court’s installation of the FAST government.
It is an acknowledgement by the international community of the evolution of Samoa’s democracy, noting that while there could be bumps along the way, but with functioning institutions of governance such as a robust justice system we have the ability to pick ourselves up and continue the journey.
Accordingly, the claim by the former Prime Minister of a plot against him by a group of feminist leaders, can be added to the growing list of conspiracy theories Tuila’epa himself has concocted since his exit from power.
But the problem with conspiracy theories is they continue to be spread and if repeated become validated.
The fact that the senior membership of the HRPP has stood by and watched, without lifting a finger to question Tuila’epa’s misinformation, says a lot about the current state of the party.
In fact the 42-year-old party’s failure to censure its leader makes them equally responsible and complicit for the spreading of misinformation, relating to April’s general election and the crisis that followed.
And lest we forget the caution against misinformation by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw: “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
Samoa Observer editorial on 26 August 2021. Republished with permission.
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.